U.S. Media, Trump and Migrant Children

Published: 1 July 2018

Country: USA

By Angelo Boccato

Screen_Shot_2018-07-02_at_09.59.24The American President Donald Trump suspended his policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border after some media and public figures clearly expressed their outrage. There were also publications that supported Trump’s policy while a photograph taken at the border with Mexico ended up at the cover of the Time magazine showing a child, Trump and the headline “Welcome to America”.

Photographer John Moore captured the image of a two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker crying at the border as her mother was searched and detained. The image quickly became viral and ended on the latest cover of TIME Magazine.  The New Yorker’s latest cover also shows Latin American migrant children hiding at the Statue of Liberty’s feet. The magazine’s editor David Remnick wrote a comment condemning Trump’s ‘cruelty’ in the matter.

As Pete Vernon pointed out in the Columbia Journalism Review, the reports of children ripped from their parents and a showdown in the White House Briefing Room led to an intense coverage of the Administration’s separation policy and a consequent growing outrage in the U.S public opinion.

Not surprisingly, the condemnation was not homogenous throughout the USA media. In terms of TV coverage the conservative pundit Ann Coulter labelled migrant kids as ‘ child actors’ inviting President Trump not to fall for it during The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton.

Fox News anchor Ingraham Angle commented: “The American people are footing a really big bill for what is tantamount to a slow rolling invasion of the United States”.

While a similar approach was adopted by radio host Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart News, the most vivid moment was Rachel Maddow who struggled to get through her segment about ‘tender age shelters’ on MSNBC.

It is doubtless that, despite their efforts and their powerful rhetoric, conservative and the right-wing media have failed in leading the public opinion towards a widespread support of the latest policies implemented by President Trump.

The suspension instead proves that liberal and progressive media in the U.S. have not lost their voice and influence, but also that the President’s most draconian policies will encounter opposition within the Republican Party’s ranks.

This does not mean however that the story is over, as according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the situation won’t change for children who have already been separated from their parents.

The stop can be seen as a ‘temporary fix’ at most, as Zoe Tillman reported on Buzzfeed; the zero-tolerance approach towards migration and border protection of the Trump Administration is still alive and kicking.

Despite all that, the approach followed by reporters and commentators of progressive and liberal ways in the States during the last week shows that anti-bodies to right-wing propaganda and discriminatory and inhumane rhetoric can be found and this is an important lesson for the European media and their approach to the far-right rhetoric and policies.